Capitalism’s Comeback

Business as a profession has been much maligned in the past 15 years. This is due in no small part to the various scandals from Enron in the early 2000s to the financial crisis that led to the recession in 2008.

Young people in the X, Y or Z generation, whichever it is today, scoff at the idea of becoming corrupt business people chasing millions and are looking instead to do something more meaningful and altruistic with their lives.

Now it seems business is making a bit of a comeback in the opinion polls.  A November 2012 Gallup poll gives business people a 21% approval rating for honesty and ethics, up from our all-time low of 12% in 2008.  That still means that roughly four out of five people do not trust those of us in business.

A new book “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business” by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia makes the case for capitalism. “In the long arc of history, no human creation has had a greater positive impact on more people more rapidly than free-enterprise capitalism. It is unquestionably the greatest system for innovation and social cooperation that has ever existed. This system has afforded billions of us the opportunity to join in the great enterprise of earning our sustenance and finding meaning by creating value for each other.”

If we as leaders rise up to the true calling in our work, we can help our people find meaning in their work. Click To TweetMackey is a co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. Sisodia is a professor of marketing at Bentley University and a co-founder of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. Together they’ve written a profoundly thoughtful narrative illustrating how business and capitalism can be enormous forces for good in our society. They hope to inspire business leaders to create conscious businesses, ones that are “galvanized by higher purposes that serve and align the interests of all major stakeholders; businesses with conscious leaders who exist in service to the company’s purpose, the people it touches, and the planet; and businesses with resilient, caring cultures that make working there a source of joy and fulfillment.”

The book aligns very closely to our way of thinking and acting at Barry-Wehmiller. During our culture transformation through Truly Human Leadership, we’ve come to see that business enterprise has the opportunity to become the most powerful positive influence on our society by providing a cultural environment in which people can realize their gifts, apply and develop their talents, and feel a genuine sense of fulfillment for their contributions in pursuit of a common inspirational vision.

If we as leaders rise up to the true calling in our work, we can help our people find meaning in their work, even in the profession of business.  We can create experiences for those in our organizations that leave them energized by their time with us rather than drained by it. They can go home and be better parents, spouses and members of their communities.

Mackey and Sisodia maintain that our society’s ever-evolving consciousness calls for a new paradigm for business. “We are gradually becoming more caring, holistic, and long term in our thinking. Many of us now see and feel the essential interdependence of all people and of all other living things. We recognize more clearly that we are all in the same boat; we must act both individually and collectively to plug the many leaks that our shared boat has sprung.”

Books like this one give me hope that a new model for business is truly emerging. As business leaders it is our responsibility to lead the way in creating conscious businesses while raising consciousness in the world. Read the book. ( Step into the boat. The ripple effect of our wake can be tremendous.

Truly Human Leadership is found throughout Barry-Wehmiller Companies, where Bob Chapman is Chairman and CEO. A $3+ billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting firm, Barry-Wehmiller’s 12,000 team members are united around a common belief: we can use the power of business to build a better world. Chapman explores that idea in his Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring For Your People Like Family, available from Penguin Random House.

1 Comment

  • Mohan Santhanam says:

    I wouldn’t mind saying that I grew up in a milieu where people always tacitly believed that business was to be equated with underhand dealings, bribery and that people in business would go to any extent to bag the coveted order. This was the atmosphere into which I entered as a greenhorn more than a decade and a half ago.

    However I gradually realized a fundamental truth – from a personal viewpoint its always best and safest to tell the truth, whatever be the situation and however bad it may be. If this can be considered to be the microcosm, then by the extension of that, the macrocosm – from an organizational enterprise should also hold true. And I guess the thinking and the identification of the new model of Conscious Capitalism is perhaps the culmination of that, which has already started to make its presence felt.

    There is an interesting Indian film (in Hindi, released some years ago and titled Rocket Singh) that exemplifies this model.

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